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Festival of Words underway with exciting schedule

This year, the festival features crime writers, Indigenous perspectives, graphic novels, cookbooks, and so much more
A number of great Canadian authors and artists will be at this year’s festival, chosen from a long list of writers interested in attending.

The Saskatchewan Festival of Words is getting ready for another year.

The famous literary festival kicked off this week with a tentative schedule for the four-day event that celebrates Canadian literature as an art form.

The Festival of Words is in its 23rd year. Executive director Sarah Simison is excited about the lineup of authors, poets, artists, and musicians signed on for 2019. 

Over the four-day weekend, 25 authors will take part in over 60 events, including panels, workshops, readings, interviews, and performances. Trivia Night will be returning to Bobby’s Place, as well as the Poetry Slam Competition, which Simison noted is now a “pay what you can” kind of admission event. 

Sierra Noble will be performing at the Cultural Centre, and the Wakamow Aboriginal Community Association will host a blanket exercise and BBQ in Cresent Park.

Authors attending this year include Saskatchewan crime-writer Gail Bowen, Indigenous poet Tenille Campbell, fiction novelist Eden Robinson, and so many others.

History writer Ted Barris will be running a workshop on publishing without an agent, and likely talking about his newest book about the Dam Busters from World War II — some of whom were from Moose Jaw, and are honored in a mural on the side of Fysh's Pharmasave.

The Festival strives to make such regional connections with the authors they invite; up to 40 per cent of participating authors each year are Saskatchewan writers. Representation is something that organizers find important, in both the industry and their lineup — the goal is to give voice to every perspective they can.

“We have a whole bunch of Indigenous writers coming, people of color, that are bringing different represented points of view and beautiful stories and life experiences,” said Simison. “We're very careful to try to create balance and regional representation.

“We always have local flavour, which I think is really appealing to people from Saskatchewan because. . .you have that pride, like these are our people that are writing these great books,” Simison added. “But it's also really great for people coming from away because they want a taste of our province and what we're about.”

The teen writing program — a week-long workshop to encourage teens who are serious about their writing — will be happening once again. Although there is a tuition price tag, Simison explained that the festival finds sponsors so that anyone can attend.  

Simison is also excited to have cookbook author Renee Kohlman attending, as that’s a medium that hasn’t been represented at the festival in a few years. Currently in the works is a special event in partnership with Grant Hall, for perhaps a taste of Kohlman’s sweet recipes, although more details are yet to come. 

There are a number of different ticket types available for the festival, from full weekend passes to single event admission. Tickets are now available for purchase from the Cultural Centre’s box office; they can be purchased online, in person, or by calling (306) 693-4700.

Simison urges people to come out and experience the beauty of Canadian literature because, she finds, it can surprise you.

“What I've discovered, is what I always end up enjoying the most are the things that are unexpected,” said Simison. “It's a very experiential thing. So, even though I'm anticipating enjoying a few things, I get really excited about the unknown. There's something for everyone.”

Local writers will continue hosting book club and the Performer’s cafe, leading up to the July 19-22 event, and more information can be found on the Festival of Words’ website.